To-do lists can be a lifesaver, but the problem is that there’s always something else to do. So you keep adding to it. And adding. And the next thing you know, no matter how hard you work, no matter how many things you cross off the list, it just seems to get longer and longer. So then you avoid the list. And voila! Procrastination returns.
In workshops, I usually suggest that students make a manageable list each day. Things that they’re definitely going to get done. How many things? Hard to say for sure, but the shorter the list, the easier it is to feel you’ve accomplished your day’s work. I’ll often try to achieve three things — one very easy one, and at least one that’s high-priority.
It’s about building on success. You have a list that’s got 20 items and you get 8 of them done, you feel like a failure. You have a list of 3 and do them all — perfection! And if you do more than what was on your list, that’s all gravy. You can make bigger lists as you find yourself becoming more productive.